The Magnolia Jungle: The Life, Times, and Education of a Southern Editor

The Magnolia Jungle: The Life, Times, and Education of a Southern Editor

The Magnolia Jungle: The Life, Times, and Education of a Southern Editor

The Magnolia Jungle: The Life, Times, and Education of a Southern Editor

Excerpt

P. D. East is an enigma to everybody who knows him, most of all, I suspect, to himself. I have seen him once for a couple of hours, corresponded with him, and have twice read the galley proofs of his book. And, as a distinguished mayor of Louisville once said in a public statement upon an issue he hadn't resolved in his own mind, "I am confused."

Here is a man who calls himself a coward and refutes it in every action and every word. Here is a man who derides formal religion and yet somewhere along the line was so obviously snake-bitten by a shouting evangelist that he has become one himself. Here is a man who says, "Hell, integration isn't possible here" but who, by his sarcasm and ridicule of those who defy the Supreme Court school decision of 1954, has driven away from his paper all the local subscribers and almost all the advertisers. Here, in short, is a man. And here is the only newspaper editor in the United States who can boast that he doesn't have a paid subscriber in his home town.

How did he do it? Hodding Carter, who wears as a badge of his courage in the same fight a denunciation from the Mississippi legislature, has said, "P. D. East's Petal Paper represents the damnedest combination of uninhibited personal journalism, stream-of-consciousness writing and a lemminglike urge to self- destruction I've ever run across, to say nothing of the guy's guts."

East left the financial security of the editorship of two union papers in Hattiesburg and community acceptance as a member of the Kiwanis Club to take over a little weekly in the town of Petal, across the Pearl River from Hattiesburg. That was in . . .

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